Barbra Streisand Remains Unwaveringly in Charge

She has been able to get people to listen to her since her breakthrough in the 1960s by staying true to herself and never chasing trends.

Barbra Streisand is on the phone with the London Christie’s auction house THE DAY I arrive at her estate. October afternoon in California, with a brilliantly sunny sky free of the ash cloud that has recently covered Los Angeles.

One of Streisand’s passions is collecting. Early 19th-century American folk art portraits, including several by the genre’s master, Ammi Phillips, a New England artist renowned for his spare, enigmatic, almost Modernist images, adorn the walls of her expansive Malibu home. Since the late 1980s, Streisand has been collecting them; she is particularly drawn to paintings depicting mothers holding their children. Two of George Washington are also hers; one was created by Streisand made a promise to Mount Vernon, the museum in Virginia that was once President Washington’s residence, to meet Charles Peale Polk in 1795 while the president was still living. One is credited to Gilbert Stuart. We might be in Colonial Williamsburg or Newport, Rhode Island, but Streisand’s husband of 22 years, actor James Brolin, is 80 years old and in good physical shape, and he’s working by the big pool outside the living room windows, with the Pacific Ocean as his background.

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